Southern Baptists Face Turmoil Over Critical Race Theory, Whatever It Is
“Critical race theory,” again?
Groan. Every time I surf the news these days, those three little words continue to pop up, even though hardly anybody, including the people who say it, seem to know what “critical race theory” or CRT, for short, really means.
So I was only half-surprised to see the CRT dispute has even reached churches, including the internal tug of war between ultraconservatives and moderate conservatives in the very conservative Southern Baptist Convention.
Two prominent Black megachurch pastors, the Rev. Charlie Dates of Chicago’s Progressive Baptist Church and the Rev. Ralph D. West of Houston’s The Church Without Walls, made national headlines in religious media by announcing that they would be leaving the denomination in protest.
Protesting over what? Yes, CRT.
Six white Southern Baptist seminary presidents had issued a statement in November declaring that critical race theory and intersectionality are “incompatible” with the Baptist faith.
Black pastors blasted that stance. Although none suggested applying the teachings of CRT to the church, a number of Black pastors took the blanket rejection of a method for examining systemic racism as a slap in the face.
The matter is particularly sensitive for members and clergy alike in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, which has tried mightily to overcome its history of being founded in 1845 as the church of Southern slaveholders. The denomination formally apologized for that in 1995.
“For me and any other younger Black pastor at a historically Black church, it all harkens back to the 1800s,” said Dates, who became senior pastor at age 30 in 2011. “The fervor around CRT reeks of white supremacy.”
Yet Dates and other Black ministers were relieved after the vote that the denomination had elected the Rev. Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor, to be president by 52% in a tight runoff against the Rev. Mike Stone of Georgia.